As of 2016, Indigenous peoples represented 4.9% (1.6 million) of the Canadian population (Statistics Canada, 2017). There are over 120 Indigenous urban reserves established within or adjacent to urban centres and this number continues to grow larger (Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, 2017).

Tree Canada recognizes the importance of trees and forests to many Indigenous communities and shares an understanding of the vital role green spaces have in communities to promote environmental stewardship, community engagement, and numerous physical and social benefits.

From 2008 to 2018, Tree Canada supported the planting of almost 240,000 trees and shrubs through greening initiatives in over 50 Indigenous communities throughout Canada in rural and urban settings.

In 2016, as directed by the Board of Directors, Tree Canada established an Aboriginal Engagement Committee to ensure that the organization’s work would include appropriate acknowledgement and increased participation of Indigenous peoples in Tree Canada programs, projects and activities.

On the heels of the release of the reports and findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Tree Canada looked into how it could play a more serious role in advancing reconciliation by including Indigenous perspectives and needs within its existing programs. The planning and planting of green spaces provide many benefits that complement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action, that create opportunities to build stronger relationships and support equitable access to the associated health and spiritual benefits and knowledge-sharing activities.

To best determine the requisite information needed, Tree Canada partnered with the Canadian Forest Service of Natural Resources Canada in 2018 to conduct a research study to better understand the needs and interests of Indigenous communities in relation to urban forestry. We reviewed Tree Canada’s past project final reports and reached out to previous recipients to identify ways to improve support for urban forest projects in Indigenous communities. For Tree Canada, a primary goal of this research was to ask for anonymous suggestions on how the organization could improve program outreach and delivery to encourage more participation from interested Indigenous groups.

In recognition of National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, Tree Canada released a summary on the results of this joint research initiative.

Highlights included:

  1. Benefits from community greening projects on health, the environment, and chances for education.
  2. Recommendations to update the program delivery framework, develop policies to increase support for greening projects, and determine ways to engage with and include Indigenous communities in urban greening projects nation-wide.

Tree Canada is eager to continue partnering with Indigenous communities across the country to build relationships and support reconciliation and healing through the deeply meaningful action of community tree planting.